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  • Writer's pictureElwood Farms

Harvesting My Own Thanksgiving Dog

"As an impressive quantity of hot, steaming blood poured over my bare hands, I wondered how I, a vegetarian for most of my life, had ended up here."

A guest post courtesy of local journalist Camilla Rogers

“Whatever you do, don’t let go of the legs.”

These words of warning, delivered sternly by a seasoned rancher, didn’t seem necessary at first. I was standing in a sunny patch of pasture at Elwood's Organic Dog Meat Farm, a nine-hundred-acre paradise along the Big Little River just east of town, holding a very calm and quiet young border collie.

A 20-pound young male with ample black-and-white fur, the pup emitted the occasional soft yip but did not move. I looked into its beady black eyes and said, feeling foolish and more than a little nervous, “Thanks for your life, dog. And, uh, I’m really sorry for what I’m about to do.”

Then I lifted it into the air, tail first, and immediately understood the advice about the legs. The dog peddled its front paws wildly, yelping and thrashing its body against mine in a flurry of fur and dust. I held on, but barely.

“You’ve got a live one!” my instructor laughed. Together we hoisted the pup upside down into a metal cone, mounted on the side of a livestock trailer, where the pup would meet its end. The dog became suddenly still again, with only its head and neck protruding from the narrow bottom of the cone.

As instructed, I pointed a bolt gun directly between the eyes and fired it, killing the dog instantly. Next came the most intense part: slitting the throat with a paring knife, then draining the blood.

As an impressive quantity of hot, steaming red liquid poured over my bare hands and splattered my Chuck Taylors (this would later take quite a bit of scrubbing to remove), I watched a little girl, maybe four years old, a few feet away. She was playing in a puddle of congealed gore from the other dogs that had already been dispatched.

“Look at all dis blood!” she squealed happily. This is one of the weirder things I’ve ever done for a story, I thought. How did I, a strict vegetarian for most of my life, end up here?

Healthy, free-range border collie at Elwood's Organic Dog Meat Farm

I felt less befuddled when Em Elwood, a lifelong local who co-owns Elwood's Organic Dog Meat with her husband, Landon, admitted she’d come a long way too.

“We used to be vegans,” she said, “so it’s been a journey.”

“We have a reverence for dogs and the land,” Elwood says, “and a respect for nature and wanting to do the right thing.”

The pair competed in triathlons and endurance cycling races, but they eventually found that their bodies couldn’t recover without more protein. They didn't think to try any vegan protein powders or consider the fact that thousands of vegan athletes thrive and win competitions while eating plant-based.

So these "vegans" (really plant-based folks who didn't read up what veganism is actually about, which is animals) switched to a paleo-influenced diet, emphasizing lean dog meats from their step-uncle's farm. They started promoting and selling their uncle's dog meat to their other paleo friends and found it so transformative and lucrative that they moved in with him to expand the dog farm.

At Elwood's Organic Dog Meat, they raise free-range lab, chihuahua, collie, Rottweiler, spaniel, pug, and more. The couple also welcomes about two thousand guests per year to the property for an array of tours and workshops. Their monthly dog harvest regularly sells out; you can also stop by to learn the art of tanning dog hides or watch puppies take their first steps.

“We have a reverence for dogs and the land,” Elwood says, “and a respect for nature and wanting to do the right thing.”

That much was obvious when I visited the sprawling pasture where the family’s herd of about four hundred heritage-breed Labradors roam free, eating grass, bugs, and seeds. As an inquisitive female gnawed on my shoelaces, Elwood explained the basics of regenerative agriculture, the sustainable philosophy that the company embraces.

All dogs are ethically raised according to USDA guidelines.

“It’s amazing how balanced Mother Nature is,” Elwood said. “We try to do it her way, not the conventional way.” That brings challenges not present at factory farms, where dogs spend their lives crowded into indoor pens. This year, the Elwood team lost sixty or so of their dogs to great horned owls. (They placed strobe lights to scare off the predators at night, with mixed success.)

Pitfalls like these must be factored into the high price tag of sustainable dog meat––a family ticket to the monthly DIY Dog Harvest Workshop, which includes instruction and a tour, is $150. But there are also benefits to raising dogs sustainably: the collies share pasture space with the labradors, and the collies eat insects from lab dung, which helps keep all the dogs and the soil healthy. And, of course, everyone swears the meat tastes better.

Killing the dog was sad and sobering and exhilarating, messy and smelly and fun.

At times, the experience did feel a lot like a Portlandia episode—though, thank goodness, none of the dogs had names. Em and Landon encouraged us to thank our dogs for their sacrifice, and each group did this quietly and without much fuss.

My husband, Matt (who’d come along for the ride), and I joined a group of about thirty families in packing the meat into our Priuses and Teslas to take home. If you’re rolling your eyes, I don’t blame you. Most locals can’t afford this lifestyle. But if you can, maybe you should try it. Every time you eat meat, you’re indirectly pulling the trigger. Being the one to literally do it, even if just this once, was an experience I will never forget. And because I'm the one who did killed the dog, how can it be wrong? I don't do bad things. I'm not a bad person. After this, I can trust others to do it for me.

Killing the dog was sad and sobering and exhilarating, messy and smelly and fun. Each time I plunged my arm into the dog's carcass to scoop out its still-steaming organs, my hand emerged with a new surprise: There was the stomach, full of grass and grit. There were the liver, the spongy lungs, the coiled intestines, the perfectly shaped heart.

I know this sounds gross, and it absolutely was, but it was also extremely cool. Animal bodies are miraculous feats of nature; it’s easy to forget that if you do most of your hunting at Safeway. And the border collie? It was delicious!

If you want to make sure the next meat you eat is as locally loved as this border collie was, order from Elwood's:

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Jan 04

Sounds like an eye opening experience! Enjoy that border collie ma’am!! You deserve it after all that work 😋


Nov 21, 2023

i hope the dog attacks you


Nov 21, 2023



Nov 21, 2023


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